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The Invisible Social Body: Experience and Poro Ritual in Northern Côte d’Ivoire

  • Till Förster

Abstract:

Secrecy and its performative display have been privileged perspectives in the study of poro and similar power associations in West Africa. I develop an alternative understanding of the Senufo poro as an institution that fosters and sustains bodily experience, establishing an all-embracing sensory regime for members as well as non-members in their villages. Participation in nighttime funerary rites creates the image of an invisible social body, and shared bodily experience informs collective intentionality towards the social. Serving as a stable nodal point in everyday discourse, this function contributes to the recent revitalization of poro associations in Côte d’Ivoire’s post-conflict society.

Le secret et sa démonstration performative ont été des perspectives privilégiées dans l’étude du poro et des associations semblables de pouvoir en Afrique de l’Ouest. Dans cet article, Je développe une compréhension autre du Sénoufo poro comme une institution qui favorise et soutien l’expérience corporelle, en établissant un régime sensoriel universel pour les membres et non membres des villages. La participation aux rites funéraires nocturnes crée l’image d’un corps social invisible et l’expérience corporelle partagée informe l’intentionnalité collective et sociale. Servant de point central stable dans le discours quotidien, cette fonction contribue à la revitalisation récente des associations poro dans la société après le conflit de la Côte d’Ivoire.

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